The key difference between 2D and 3D cell culture is that the 2D cell culture uses an artificial flat surface, typically a petri dish or a cell culture plate while the 3D cell culture uses a substrate that mimics the extracellular matrix of that particular cell type.
Cell culture is the process that grows cells under controlled conditions generally outside their natural environment. 2D and 3D cell culture are of two types. Both 2D and 3D cell culture systems are highly useful in in-vitro testing of therapeutics, drugs and other biochemically active compound and can be regarded as an alternative towards animal testing. These two culture systems differ from each other by the cell adherence surface.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is 2D Cell Culture
3. What is 3D Cell Culture
4. Similarities Between 2D and 3D Cell Culture
5. Side by Side Comparison – 2D vs 3D Cell Cultures in Tabular Form
What is 2D Cell Culture?
2D cell culture is one of the most practised forms of cell culture as it is less laborious in nature. During 2D cell culturing, a monolayer cell culture establishes on a cell culture flask or a petri dish. Furthermore, the 2D cell culturing does not maintain suspension cultures. Also, as the growth is only on a flat monolayer surface, there is a limit on cell morphology in 2D cell culturing. Thus, the cells receive a homogenous quantity of nutrients, and therefore, the cells usually appear as flat cells.
Similarly, it is easy to remove the cells as the cells only exist in a monolayer. Therefore, the cells will not behave as the cells would have been in its normal environmental condition. Due to this fact, we cannot well analyse the processes such as cell proliferation, apoptosis and differentiation in 2D cell culture systems. In contrast, we can analyse the experiments in relation to the bioactivity of a compound and biochemical reactions via 2D cell cultures.
What is 3D Cell Culture?
3D cell culturing uses a 3-dimensional artificial matrix that has customized to mimic the native environment of the cells. Thus, the cells grow like when they are in their natural environments, and the cells show a good potential to grow, proliferate and differentiate without any restrictions. Thus, we can use this method to study the cell’s behavior and the responses of the cells in its own environmental conditions.
Since the cells are not grown in monolayers, they do not receive a homogenous quantity of nutrients. The cells grown in 3D cell culture systems take a spheroid shape.
What are the Similarities Between 2D and 3D Cell Culture?
- Both involve special cell culture media.
- The growing cells can be observed under fluorescence microscopy or electron microscopy
- Both are used in drug testing protocols to assess the activity.
What is the Difference Between 2D and 3D Cell Culture?
Cell culturing can be 2D or 3D. 2D cell culture uses an artificial flat surface to grow cells while 3D cell culture uses an artificial matrix that mimics the native environments of the cells. Hence, in 3D cell culture, cells grow, proliferate and differentiate showing normal behavior and functions.
The below infographic presents a more descriptive analysis of the difference between 2D and 3D cell culture.
Summary – 2D vs 3D Cell Culture
2D and 3D cell culture systems have great importance in drug testing and drug discovery. 2D cell culture employs on an artificial adherence surface such as a cell culture flask, whereas 3D cell cultures employ on an artificial extracellular matrix. In order to study the cells behavior, processes and other biochemical changes 3D cell culturing is more suited even though, 2D cell cultures are less laborious and less expensive. Therefore, this is the difference between 2D and 3D cell culture.
1.Duval, Kayla, et al. “Modeling Physiological Events in 2D vs. 3D Cell Culture.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2017. Available here
2.Edmondson, Rasheena, et al. “Three-Dimensional Cell Culture Systems and Their Applications in Drug Discovery and Cell-Based Biosensors.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 May 2014. Available here